Friday, May 4, 2012


Learning in Maine
is transitioning to 
Learning in America.  

Go here for the new 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I saw the future and it works

by Olga LaPlante

I am borrowing this headline from Larry Cuban, who borrowed it from Lincoln Steffens.

Larry writes about his visit to a hybrid (charter) school in LA. His observations are curious, and honestly, do not describe a school I would like to send my child to if I had a choice. (My son attends a regular public school).

I suggest you read all three parts of the experience, and get to the bottom of the concept. Does it really work?

Part 2
Part 3

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

NCLB and the waiver

It is too bad that Maine didn't make a run for the NCLB waiver. Maybe, the Maine DOE understands that the whole mandate is doomed anyway, why bother with all the tricks to get out of it sooner.
I am happy though that at least several states got out of it, and have looked again at ways to measure progress or performance of schools and students.
This post provides some insights into what's happening in MN and Doug Johnson's thoughts about the measure.

Monday, September 12, 2011

BFTP: Stone Soup: A Classroom Parable

 by Olga LaPlante

As schools are adopting new technologies, flying or struggling with others, technology remains what has always been – including all technology, starting with a simple stick – an extension of human capacities. I can't even begin to steal Doug's thunder here, so just enjoy his post, and the simple way to illustrate the ongoing battle.

BFTP: Stone Soup: A Classroom Parable

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bill Gates taking on state budgets and education

 by Olga LaPlante

This is an interesting talk by Bill Gates. Of course, his main point we need to spend money on education, and disallow state level cuts to school budgets, including universities. He believes that this problem is solvable but – and this I like – we need to draw people in this discussion and search for solutions.

It's certainly a divisive topic. It seems that Bill Gates takes certain things at their face value without questioning them (for instance, the fact that in a failing economy and general price suppression, the tuition has defied the trend like helium balloons, and is so high in the sky you can't see the tuition rates from here). He also promotes the idea that teachers need to be effective and need to be incentivized (the implication is money) in order to work well. While I agree that compensation must be appropriate, this alone is not the incentive to work well with kids. And to be effective, how does one define effectiveness (it sounds like we are back to standardized test results, oh boy!).

Anyway, check this out and tell us what you think.

Bill Gates TED Talk

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sit Still

 "You really need to look at the range of issues, because if a 5-year-old can’t sit still, it is unlikely that they can do well in a kindergarten class, and it has to be the whole range of issues that go into healthy child development." ~ Kathleen Sebelius

Forbes - E.D. Kain, American Times

Essential Question:  Should five-year-olds be expected to sit still in class?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another perspective on school improvement

 by Olga LaPlante

Right now, school budgets all around the state, if not the country, are being considered, discussed, laid out, revisited, and whatnot in pursuit of pleasing the fiscal gods and making ends meet somehow. If your district is not planning to make cuts, you are a lucky exception.
There are public debates held over the proposals, and mostly if not solely it's  adults' business. Why? Because we foot the bill and of course we know better.
I found this blog post this morning and I believe that kids should be a little – or maybe much – more involved in the process. They may not understand politics, but they definitely are capable – maybe not willing – to articulate what works for them and what doesn't. I think that as leaders and administrators, adults do end up making the decisions regardless of preceding procedures. What is truly important is that the adults take the chance to listen to what students have to say, leverage their talents and take the risk of believing that students do know a little about their own learning, and it's not all top-down as usual that is going to solve this mess. What do you think?

Friday, March 18, 2011

An interesting perspective: Do you have a hand in this?

 by Olga LaPlante

I am a dy/dan blog reader, and recently there has been a post about bloggers – especially the successful ones – who unknowingly become part of a game to improve money flow to certain institutions. If you are a blogger and don't want to improve the third party's bottom line in this way, you may be interested in learning more:
I would love to hear other people's thoughts about this one!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Collaborative Problem Solving

by Olga LaPlante

I am a convert. Last summer, I took a class (for my teacher certification renewal) in addressing the needs of exceptional students in the regular classroom. It was amazing. One of the things that came out of it was finding a book about problematic behavior, "Lost in School" by Ross Greene, PhD.

I am now a big believer in the CPS approach.

I have just discovered this site and noticed some of our own Maine schools practicing this approach to helping students develop skills they lack to deal with problems and demands appropriately. Check out this testimony from Kittery and in Sanford.

This approach is very down-to-earth, no-nonsense, and practical. The administrators in the videos talk about the implementation, and the success – and challenges, of course! – they have had in their buildings.

Monday, March 7, 2011


It's been a very long time since I've posted to this blog, but now it's time to return. I've joined an online learning community called iFacilitate2011 which is all about learning the basics of facilitating online learning, a skill that I'm very interested in learning.  You can join, as well, right here.

Right away I was impressed with iFaciliate because it is making using of Google Sites and Wikispaces, two of my favorite tools.  Added to this was Elluminate, a synchronous meeting place.

I'll be using this blog to reflect on resources and discussions within the free online iFacilitate course.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 is the International Year of Chemistry!

Do you want to be part of it?
To learn more visit this site:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Learning from mistakes

 by Olga LaPlante

Well, this is not an earth-shattering statement, although in the view of the current education policies and trends it might as well be.
This teacher doesn't say anything new, but why aren't more teachers embracing this idea and this approach? Granted, ditching your traditional views is difficult – and I am all for being careful about it too. Sifting through the methods and techniques will take time. But as I said, there is nothing earth-shattering in this story. It's just told well.
We all know – teachers or not – that this is how we learn, by doing. Yet, when you walk into a classroom, it often just flips the switch – and you often feel that half the time it's the learners who have already grown accustomed to a particular – lecture-type – style of doing school. So, you have to fight with them – sometimes – to have them start learning the way they are designed to learn. What's up with that?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Fix" for education

by Ed Latham

In all professional sports, teamwork is vital to a successful year. Each team has an owner and a head coach. Most have an offensive coach and a defensive coach. Additionally there may be other specialist that work with different positions so I will call them positional coaches. All of the coaches must have a philosophy and means to get every team member on the same page in order to build a culture of success. For the sake of discussion, lets compare these vital structures to the educational team and talk about educational “success”.

The owner of the team basically is responsible for the money. This equates to the school board and both parties want to see some measure of success for the investment.

The head coach is the heart and soul of the team and ultimately directs the leadership in which direction the school is headed in, what aspects need highest attention and even some possible ways to accomplish those goals. This is our school superintendents. They take the charge of the school board and works with the administrators and public to set up the organization of people to make it happen.

The offensive and defensive coaches can be thought of as managers of squads of players with specific foci. These are our principals, elementary school and middle/high school, that work day to day with the staff to help accomplish goals specific to their grade level learners. The principal will also have to pick up some of the public relations with parents (similar to the media in sports) who are always interested in why things are the way they are. In sports, the head coach has that responsibility. In education, our superintendents and principals share that role of trying to educate and sometimes, placate, the public that has some investment in that team.

Finally we have the players. Our teachers and our grant people working on literacy and numeracy and technology all fill these rolls.

Now that we have our team assembled with their team responsibilities outlined so that every team should now be successful, right? Much press has been out in the last decade about failing schools followed by “Why?” questions that to this day everyone still questions. From a sports perspective I offer the following reason why.

Education does not have ANY form of free agency. In professional football (American, not soccer), considered by most to be the most popular televised sport in the world right now, there has been a free agency system that has created not only successful teams, but a successful system of organizations that produce most of their goals, (entertain, create interest, generate money …). In case you are not familiar with this system let me offer a short summary. Each professional player in the league has an agent and is represented by a league wide players union. The player’s union(teachers union) works with the owners (school board) to ensure just rules and regulations for both parties exist. The agents for each player are charged with finding the organization (school) in which each player’s strengths and weaknesses best fit with the team they are hired to work at. The coaches on that team (admin staff) have an evaluation period of training camp (first two years of teacher contract) in which to work with each player to find out how well that player fits “the system”. When cuts come up, the coaches (admin staff) contact all the other teams with notes and suggestions about which of their cut players (teachers) may be better suited for the desires of other coaching staffs. In this system, a player that does not “fit” is not discarded, rather the system encourages directions the player can go to find a better fit. When that system works, the teams are highly successful.

Schools have much of the free agency system foundation in place. We are missing agents for teachers and any sort of system in which administrators can move staff to systems in which the teacher’s skills can best be used. In effect, every administrator is “stuck” with the staff they have. Granted, the diverse skills and attitudes can be a great boon in some ways, but the lack of cohesion and attitude prevent true teamwork. Again, back to the sports world, there are teams in most sports that throw money at talent and assemble the greatest collection of talent (on paper) for a year and that team almost always bombs horribly. Almost any collection of superstars, all individuals with great talent, fails if those individuals do not buy into some team philosophy or direction. No matter how talented the individuals are, no staff with diverse personal agendas, philosophies and goals can be as successful as a cohesive team of lesser talented individuals all believing and working in the same system.

Lets look at this “new” system for success. I am a new administrator to a system. I get in with my staff and work with them for two years. During that time I am evaluating my players (teachers) to see their strengths and personal goals to see how that fits with my administrative goals. Meanwhile both the teachers and the admins above me are looking at my fit in the system. If any group feels there is a mismatch, there is a system to resolve. I, as an administrator have an agent. This agent may represent other admins around the state, around the region, or even a whole country. My agent gets paid by taking a slight percentage of whatever wages are negotiated in each school she gets a teacher or admin hired at. Therefore, my agent has a vested interest in helping me find a system that best fits my skills and directions and she gains from my success and longevity. If there are difficulties in my placement in my new school, my agent is getting all this feedback. She processes that and helps to hit up the other schools that may better fit based on the feedback she receives. After my two year try out, I know I either fit the system or my agent has a short list of places I can land and some constructive feedback for me to better my next placement.

The same works for teachers and their agents. The admin comes up and shares a direction and some methods the system wishes the staff to adopt. I don’t successfully adopt either by ability or attitude and my agent is getting all this feedback to best determine where I might be successful as a teacher. After my two years, if I fit, I am in a system that not only fits my abilities, but my attitudes and goals are at least in a similar line.

By now union people are screaming at this idea, but let me remind you that the teachers union, the admin union, and heck even the school boards could have a union all work together to help create and maintain a fair workplace for all. After all, our current union structure’s main focus is on the group, not the individual. It is impossible for any one union to best represent each individual’s need. For that you need a personal representative, an agent.

Educators all want success and many are feeling there is much lacking in terms of success nationally and locally. I suggest we can all find our educational home in a free agent system as described in professional sports. Sports that are highly successful in accomplishing individual team (school) goals and the entire organization like the National Football League (NFL) to prosper just like we wish to see Education prosper. The salvation of education lies in getting the right players connected with the right leaders to create teams all accomplishing their goals rather than forcing reformation that has annual circularity.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Making most of MLTI in middle and high schools in Maine

This is the link and a lot of these resources may be accessible to lots of Mac users and even web-based apps users.
ELA: Complex text and such
A Christmas Carol from Lit2Go (in iTunes U) - will open in iTunes. Download and burn to a CD and distribute among younger readers/non-readers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let's Celebrate Gifted Kids

By Pam Kenney

Sean* is ten and a gifted child. He reads voraciously, thinks way outside the box, and is on a personal quest to understand the world around him by learning as much as he can about everything he can as fast as he can. Like many other bright kids, his social skills aren't as well-developed as those of some of his peers, and he finds many of his classroom assignments needlessly repetitive and not particularly challenging (and says so, of course); he can be a know-it-all.

I know Sean well, and I imagine he can be a handful for his teacher and often irritating to his classmates. His school, though, thinks he may have a "problem". Maybe he needs a social skills class or would benefit from some other type of intervention... After all, the kids in his grade have complained about him because he brags sometimes, and he thinks he's so-o-o smart, and he's quite touchy, reacting verbally when they tease him.

Sean does not need a social skills class. He doesn't have a problem---he's smart. And it's time educators started celebrating the uniqueness of academically gifted students instead of labeling their eccentricities as problems that need to be fixed. Yes, Sean should learn that tooting his own horn isn't the way to make friends, but his classmates need to be taught that their behavior toward him, manifested solely to bring him down a peg or two, is equally inappropriate.

Classrooms are composed of children of every stripe and are ideal environments for teachers to initiate discussions with their students about differences among people, including intellectual and personality-related ones. Kids already know that some of us are more athletic or musical than others; some are good with their hands while others are more awkward. They've been told since they were toddlers that we're all different, and that that's a good thing. Yes, it is a good thing, but schools today are so intent on bolstering children's self-esteem and reassuring them that they are up to every challenge, that they have shied away from celebrating the gifts of unusually smart kids.

Gifted children can be hard to deal with; but so can star athletes, and reluctant readers, and good math students, and introverts, and computer geeks, and kids who sit and stare into space. The personalities and attendant behaviors of all of them are affected by their strengths and weaknesses. They don't need special classes or therapy; they need committed teachers and parents who will take the time to discuss all the ways people differ from one another and how those differences affect how they act. Through example and lots of practice at home and at school, I believe kids are perfectly capable of understanding and accepting each other's idiosyncrasies, not with scorn and ridicule, but with grace and pride.

*name changed to protect the child's identity

Monday, November 8, 2010

Daylight Savings?

By Ed Latham

My natural biorhythm has been complaining much in the last few days as I am still adjusting to our seasonal changing of the clocks. This disruption has forced me to research the why of these time changes in the spring and fall.

I found the following map showing who is still changing these clocks(Blue), who has stopped (Orange) and who never changed them in the first place (Red). One might conclude that the red countries just never got the memo in the first place or have so much sun around the equator they did not see what all the fuss was about. Digging further, I found that many of the reasons for DST (Daylight Savings Time) are interesting when looking at this map. Here are some of the key reasons.
1. Energy Use: The thought was that if we shift the hours around, people would have more natural light and therefore use less artificial, electricity consuming light. As Ben Franklin pointed out, this is a fallacy as the usage of lights in the morning increase to render any benefits from this afternoon shift to be minimal. Given the Blue countries above typically have access and knowledge of energy efficient lighting, any support of energy savings rational for DST today has to be based on an unwillingness or inability to adopt the newer more efficient technologies for lighting.
2. Retail: Originally, more daylight hours after work translated into more people shopping at local stores. With the Internet and our instant access to most any resource (especially in the blue countries in the map), the rational for shifting times around is no longer applicable. In fact, as many are dealing more and more on a global scale, these changes in time often cost more time and money to restructure business connections.
3. Safety: The thought was that more light on the evening commute would equal less fatal accidents. Although the data has shown that less pedestrians get hit with this shift, there has been no solid evidence that when one factors in the morning fatalities from people having disrupted sleep patterns that there is any significant drop in the number of fatalities. Interestingly, the blue countries tend to be the only ones that have tons of cars on the road in the first place. Seems like getting rid of some of the cars might have more of a safety effect than messing with time :)
4. Health: This reason sounds good at first. More daylight in the afternoon equals more physical exercise. Data suggests the disruption in our natural circadian rhythm for up to a month after each shift causes many health detriments. Factoring in the increased suicide rates, especially after the spring switch and one has to question this at a purely data level. Again looking at the health of those in the blue countries, I am seeing the most wealthy of the world. For the most part the blue countries have many more comforts in their lives and through no coincidence have higher rates of obesity and inactivity. Although they can afford nicer exercise equipment and gym memberships, the lack of need of physical exercise is more of a health hazard than the lack of sun in the afternoon. Maybe we all need to have to carry our drinking water home every afternoon and this health issue would be fixed rather than messing with time.

One more observation. The orange countries are those that had DST and then realized the futility of it. In fact, based on population, one could argue that only the richest 2 or 3 percent of the world still stick to this silly tradition. Everyone else must realize that nature has a flow of light and dark periods and they somehow manage to adjust their lives appropriately rather than artificially changing the name of the hour to feel better.

Do you see any other observations from this interesting map? Any thoughts on the whole DST thing as it applies to learning? After all, most adolescents are not even functional mentally until at least 2-3 hours after sunrise, so our students are still sleeping till almost halfway through our school days.

Well, looking at my clock it is either time to get to work or I am already late, or is it early? I think I need to go for a nature walk outside first to find out.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Real processing

by Ed Latham

Checking my mail this morning, I received a chat from a student. The student was having difficulty (in a game of course) and did not know what to do next to resolve the issue. We chatted for a few min to find what he had attempted and what the resulting conditions were. He was very patient and articulate in describing the issue and what he had done thus far.

I jumped into some searching and digging through some forums to find others with similar issues to his. I quickly found others complaining of the same thing and the solutions offered by members of the forums. I shared my findings with him and how I went about getting that information.

He got very quiet (in chat that just means he went more than 2 minutes without typing) only to return with many negative comments in reference to his lack of ability to figure this out himself. He was quite upset that he had not thought to check the forums, had not thought of such a simple solution, and many other "failings" to resolve this problem himself.

Intervention time! I stopped him and asked him why it was so important that he figure it all out himself. He replied that he felt computer competent and not being able to fix things himself is perceived internally as a weakness. I was a bit shocked and asked him where he thinks these feelings came from. "Well in school, friends and teachers chew you out for asking stupid or obvious crap ... so idk I guess it is just I am used to people dissing me if I ask for help"

My fingers flew into action as I jumped on my digital soapbox. I shared the importance of developing and using our social networks to discuss and resolve solutions. The world this young child is going into not only benefits from the ability to reach out to others to process and work together, it is becoming more and more a necessary skill. Many reading this post already know the power of a good social network and how many hours of frustration and other negatives that are encountered without our personal resources and connections. After I stepped down off my soapbox and congratulated the boy on reaching out, asking the right questions and articulating so well what the problem was he reported he felt better. "Besides, I probably would have been all week trying to figure this out on my own and would have just given up on the whole thing and quit that game if I couldn't get this working."

I have the pleasure of working with people all over the state of Maine and I have been exposed to so many wonderful projects, practices and classrooms. Establishing connections with all of these great people has enabled me to field at least 5 questions a day from teachers from k-16. Many of those questions I get daily are of such a specific nature, I know I don't have more than a surface idea what they are asking, but I do know someone on my social networks that has experience with that and I can get almost instant help and walk throughs for the teacher asking the original question. Additionally, my knowledge expands in that arena! I am learning so much just by being the middle man in a social network chain.

Where are our students getting their help from? Many classrooms are still very teacher directed and may reward compliance more than personal inquiry. Mom and Dad, if they are around, are often glad to be done with all that school stuff. For many students, they may feel their friends are just as lost on the topic as he or she is. Cell phones are not allowed in classes nor are most forms of communication that allows connection to any social networks. Unless the student can get some time to visit their media specialist (one of the few social network resources allowed in school), the student is resigned to individual searches on the Internet, re hashing notes or the book, or trying to hit up the teacher after class some time.

In short, my social network allows me to get almost instant help not only for me, but for everyone I work with. With almost every educator I talk to wanting students to learn to think and problem solve, are we not removing access to tools real people use every day to resolve their problems? In most every workplace, people facing difficulties almost never go to their boss asking for a fix. Instead they hit up their network of resources to resolve the issues, hopefully quickly so the interruption does not set the worker behind or cause a scene.

How can we help students safely establish social networks and learn how to use these resources well? Is that enough? Shouldn't we be encouraging responsible efficiency in using our peeps to help move our current projects forward?

What are your thoughts on the importance of using a social network and if you are using/promoting such how are you doing so with students?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Three Things I'm Going to Do

by Cheryl Oakes

There are 3 things that I am going to actively do after reflecting on the ACTEM Keynote from Vicki Davis and Angela Maiers.

1. Expose the Crab Bucket for what it is. If you name something then you  can change it.

2. Listen to my students, no I really mean listen to my students. By having my students name their challenges, their hopes, their future- then we have a collective vision.

3. Collaborate with another class, group, project. Now that I am in the classroom, I have this ability to make this a reality!

For those wondering about the Crab Bucket, here is what Wikipedia has to say: crab bucket mentality , crab bucket mentality describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase "if I can't have it, neither should you." The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs. Singly, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless "king of the hill" competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is that of a group that will attempt to "pull down" (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of jealousy or competitive feelings.

This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality. It is also often used colloquially in reference to individuals or communities attempting to "escape" a so-called "underprivileged life", but kept from doing so by others attempting to ride upon their coat-tails or those who simply resent their success.

I will ask my students to name their dreams and what this year will help them accomplish and as far as a project I am going to sign up for Digi-Teen Digi-Teen

What are you going to do?

Cheryl Steele Oakes
Resource Room Facilitator/Teacher
Wells High School
Wells Ogunquit CSD Wells ME 04090
Google Certified Teacher